Guns. Lots of guns. That was the one thing director Enzo Mascarelli didn’t have while filming WWII actioner Inglorious Bastards in 1978. “A strange law in the Italian government at the time has just decided to remove all firearms from the movies,” recalls Mascarelli. “So they took all our guns – crazy! It’s not easy to do a war movie without weapons! After they went, everyone was saying, ‘Bastards! Bastards! Bastards!’ And I just said, ‘Inglorious bastards!’ And everyone said, ‘That’s it! That’s the title of the movie!’ And these guys are just a bunch of bastards. I’m still very proud of that.”
It certainly caught the eye of young Quentin Tarantino who, journeying round Europe after winning the Palme d’Or for Reservoir Dogs, first met Mascarelli at the Venice film festival. “Three or four years ago, Quentin, Joe Dante and watched Inglorious Bastards on the biggest screen in Venice. And every shot, Quentin was asking, ‘How did you do this? Oh yes! Oh shit! Oh right!’ in the end he stodd up, took me in his arms and said, This my master!'”
The next day, Mascarelli and QT went for lunch. Tarantino was scribbling something. A war movie. A war movie a lot like Inglorious Bastards. Mascarelli took a look. “The beginning was shocking,” he said. “A bunch of American-Indian US marine are fighting the German and at the end of the fight, they scalp all of the Germans with knives! And that’s just the first scene! From that moment, I was very curious to see the movie. Just to see how much blood he would splash on the screen!”
Tarantino bought the rights to Mascarelli’s movie, talked with him for hours on the phone as the years passed and he continued to tweak the script. QT kept the script and casting details secret from the Italian, despite strong early rumours of Tim Roth and Michael Madsen. “I was curious, because three years ago, he told me he would cast Samuel L Jackson, Antonio Banderas and, for Bo Svensson’s lead character, he would use George Clooney!”
One man was on the cast-list from the start: Enzo Mascarelli. “When he said I will have a little role in the movie, I said, ‘Don’t worry, I will do my own stunts!'”
This article was first published in Total Film.